2016 05-27 SB Channel
Mirror glassy morning with warm sunshine and only a slight breeze in the afternoon gave us perfect conditions for viewing wildlife. And what a great day full of wildlife sightings we had! It all started with a spread-out cluster of long-beaked common dolphins passing by the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance buoy. They were feeding on little isolated pockets of northern anchovies and moving east through the Anchorage. This led Captain Dave to pay a visit to a few California sea lions that were hauled out on a dismasted sailboat. I believe their population picks up in the afternoon.
Next we pushed offshore to visit the last known area for yesterday’s humpback whales. However, around 1100 am Dave pulled back on the throttle to give us a chance to see a medium large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) on the glassy surface. The fish was moving from one purple sailor (Velella velella) to the next and gulping them down like little hors d’oeuvres no matter what size the jellies were. About 15 minutes later we located our first (of three seen today) humpback whales. It was a steady mover and migrating southeast with 5 – 6 minute down times. It was a good sighting but not as rare as the next one. Off in the distance we spotted a second humpback whale breaching.
On the scene the beast had stopped breaching, but now was engaged in vigorous pectoral fin slapping while rolling around so as to allow each pectoral fin (right and left) an equal chance to make a big noise and send up a large splash. After a few slaps, the humpback would right itself, give off a nice trumpet call, then resume having fun on the surface. After a good long time with this showboat whale it was time for our customary, weather-permitting, tour of beautiful Santa Cruz Island and Potato Harbor. Upon exiting Potato it was not long before we came across a mob of about 30 tightly-packed California sea lions marauding and looking for trouble…at least that is what my imagination came up with.
We were ¾ths of the way home when we spotted, then followed, our third and final humpback whale of the day. It was close to Habitat and heading west. It’s spout spray was blowing nicely in the little afternoon breeze.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.